Eastern Europe is a traveler’s paradise and one of my favorite regions in the world to visit. It blends the history and beauty of Western Europe with its own touch of unrefined, medieval spirit. With tourism numbers ever on the rise, I’ve ranked my top 10 favorite Eastern Europe highlights.
Ironically, ‘Eastern Europe’ is difficult to define. There are countless ways to geographically, politically and culturally interpret its borders. For the sake of this countdown, I am representing it as the countries east of Germany/Italy and excluding the Baltics, western Russia, the Caucasus and Turkey/Greece, the majority of whom are home to destinations that would have made this list.
The criteria to be considered:
- 1- I must have visited the site.
- 2- It could be a city, small town, natural landmark or local attraction – all of which I’m categorizing here as ‘sites.’
- 3- It must lie within the previously mentioned geographical area.
The below entries are a purely personal opinion based on my experience. I did not receive any financial compensation. And as with virtually every one of my posts, I took all of the displayed photos (with an iPhone). Let’s get to it!
10.) Dubrovnik | Croatia
Croatia’s stunning coastline dominates the Adriatic’s eastern bank. Although pricier and more touristy than many places in the region, getting lost in Dubrovnik’s Old Town is a modern-day glimpse of medieval times.
9.) Matka Canyon | Macedonia
Just 30 minutes from downtown Skopje, Matka Canyon is an ideal spot for kayaking and cave exploring. The Canyon Matka Hotel is a welcoming and affordable accommodation in the heart of the gorge.
8.) Medjugorje | Bosnia & Herzegovina
Medjugorje is a handsome, mountainous town near the Bosnia-Croatia border. The Blessed Virgin Mary is reported to have appeared to six local children here in 1981 culminating it as one of the most important Roman Catholic pilgrimage destinations.
7.) Budapest | Hungary
The Széchenyi Thermal Bath impressively walks the fine line between touristy and authentic. From the Hungarian Parliament to Fisherman’s Bastion, Eastern European architecture is on full display in Budapest.
6.) Salzburg | Austria
It snowed the entire time I visited in December 2011, which meant an authentic Austrian experience but less engaging photographs. From Mozart’s birthplace to the Von Trapp mansion, Salzburg is one of the best-preserved cities in all of Europe.
5.) Lake Bled | Slovenia
Lake Bled is an Eastern European gem and one of the most impressive natural settings in the region. In addition to swimming and kayaking in the summer, don’t miss the hike at nearby Vintgar Gorge.
4.) Mostar | Bosnia & Herzegovina
Mostar is a small Bosnian town most famous for its Ottoman-style old bridge. Despite considerable war damage, the city’s exceptional charm and liveliness persist in style. Lucky visitors can witness an iconic Stari Most diver in action.
3.) Auschwitz | Poland
After a morning tour of the facility, I don’t think I spoke a word for three hours. Visiting Auschwitz is a heavy experience, and, for a number of reasons, a top recommendation.
2.) Kotor | Montenegro
Kotor feels more like a movie set than a Montenegrin bay town. Aside from castles and yachts, the surrounding mountains rival the world’s most beautiful. Head up the winding P1 roadway to Lovćen Mausoleum for a stellar panoramic view of what seems to be the entire Balkan region.
1.) Prague | Czech Republic
It’s quickly obvious why many consider Prague to be one of Europe’s most charming and inspirational cities. The gold-tipped towers and historic stone bridges take medieval architecture to a new level. Outside of tourist hotspots, it’s true that the beer is cheaper than water.
Do you agree with my list? Which Eastern Europe sites did I miss?